The reasons for the dramatic increases in the cost of higher education are many, but the effect is singular. Pursuing a degree has become more difficult financially, at the same time that the need for the skills higher education offers continues to grow. This creates a hardship for many potential students, particularly those who might be considered non-traditional.
Non-traditional students are generally older than their classmates. Some of them put off school for family reasons and others to serve in the military. Oftentimes, these students have responsibilities beyond their studies. Figuring out how to pay tuition and fees, as well as other living expenses such as rent or mortgage, childcare, insurance and the like, can be a struggle.
In 2000, the average cost of tuition at a four-year public college was $2,276. By 2006, it had more than doubled to $4,694. Add those increases to the rising cost of fuel, food and other cost of living expenses, and students must be creative to find a way just to to get by.
One local student facing that dilemma has decided to put his feet to work to help offset some of the expenses he’ll face as he heads back to school this fall. Andrew Puttman, 21, is a married father of two and will be starting in the nursing program at Ranger College this fall.
“I’m a young father of two beautiful girls. I put off doing the things I wanted to do to take care of my family,” he said. Puttman said he currently works two jobs, one of which he’ll have to quit once school begins.
“My dream has been to enter the medical field. I was accepted into Ranger College from August to August for their nursing program,” he said. “I’ll have to quit a job. I can’t afford to pay a mortgage, can’t afford to make car payments and pay for school.”
To help make ends meet, Puttman plans to raise money by running from the Brown County Courthouse to the Comanche County Courthouse on Aug. 18. He hopes to raise donations for each mile he runs - it’s about 28, he said - or for completing the run.
His effort won’t be all about himself, though, he says. Half of the money he raises this year will be set aside to help set up a scholarship for other students that are facing situations similar to his own.
“Half the money is going to be donated to start a scholarship fund for students in central Texas,” Puttman said. “I’m setting up an organization with a board. We’ll apply for a 501 c(3).”
One of the first people to agree to serve on the new board was Shirley Fragua, who said she first met Puttman when he coached her granddaughter’s soccer team.
“He’s such a good young man. He’s doing this to further his education, further his career and take care of his family,” she said. “Andy’s a real go-getter. I told him I would do whatever I could to help.”
Puttman said he ran in high school, although it wasn’t for the cross country or track teams. He said he’s been running for a few days in preparation, and will attempt to run half-way to Comanche this Sunday.
“I just came up with the idea and started training a week ago. Most marathoners (a marathon is 26.2 miles) have a year of running under their belt and three to four months of intense training. I’ve got three weeks,” he said.
Because of the heat, Puttman plans on running overnight. He’ll start out of Brownwood around 7 p.m. and take a water break every two hours.
“My wife is going to escort me,” he said. “I plan on finishing in five to six hours.”
Puttman said he’s been able to get loans and financial aid for his school expenses, but not to cover the living expenses he’ll still have despite working one fewer jobs. The money he raises will help cover some of that shortfall.
“Paying for school is easy,” he said. “It’s the living expenses that are hard. They don’t offer loans to cover living expenses. I’m a faith-based man. I decided if I couldn’t find enough help to pay my way through school, I decided I would take things into my own hands.”
Puttman said his goal is to raise $10,000 this first year, and that he’s already raised over $1,000. People interested in making a donation, or helping establish the scholarship organization may contact him by phone at 998-2771 or by e-mail at email@example.com.